Pondering the Intricacies of Gardening…or Bitching About Weeds

As I sit here enjoying my glass of Rodney Strong Sauvignon Blanc and looking at my dirt stained fingers I’m pondering something.  I’m wondering why I did that. By “that” I mean why did I plant a garden.  Aside from the fact that I like fresh vegetables and I enjoy the time I get to spend with my dad as we do our collective garden I realize that I hate hoeing… and I hate weeding. I hate the back muscle wrenching motion of hoeing and I hate that even after you’ve hoed, you still have to bend down to rip the offensive vegetation from the earth to ensure it won’t return for at least week. And then? Well, it’s the same battle again and again. Damn weeds. I know, I know, there are products that you can put down to prevent the growth of these nasty intruders, but I’d prefer to keep my garden organic.

 

Regrettably, I haven’t spent much time in the garden the past couple of weeks which means I have unwelcome visitors that have to be exterminated.  I simply hate the process of eliminating said visitors. This poses the question again: why did I do that? I especially hate getting rid of weeds in the heat. Today, it was a whopping 86 degrees when I left my office; by the time I got home, I’d decided I would throw on my dirt playin’ clothes and tackle the mess.  I got a measly two rows hoed before my back just couldn’t handle it anymore and my shirt was stuck to my back with sweat. Sadly, my garden is riddled with weeds, weeds and more weeds.

But wait, it gets worse… I have yet to plant more beans (a family favorite), cucumbers and tomatoes. Oy vey.

Looks like this weekend will be filled with garden time! It’s worth it though. Think about it: fresh veggies and time with my dad vs. less time with dad and no fresh veggies. Which would win in your book?

The Wonders of Nature (and Gardening)

It’s amazing that something as simple as observing a plant’s growth instills such childlike wonder in me. Every morning as I fix my coffee, I look out the window above the sink toward the garden plot in the side yard and I’m filled with a sense of bewilderment. Each morning it seems as though the little sprouts have grown several inches overnight. It’s magical to me, to see the progress.

For a photographic example, my little square of garden space was filled with sporadic, tiny sprouts such as this:

tiny sprouts from a month ago…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

has now turned into:

wonderous example of nature’s merriment

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seeing such incredibly quick growth makes it seem as though little plant fairies have fluttered to the garden at night and sprinkled enchanted Grow Dust all over the small sprouts. That the earth is feeding our little plants and seedlings is magical to me. What were once tiny seeds and miniature sprouts poking vertically up and out toward the sun, through red soil have turned into thick, lush green patches. And, what’s even more incredible to me is that there are edible fruits of my labor.  Last weekend, I actually got to enjoy a salad with lettuce that I planted. And the radishes that my dad has planted? They’re like tiny round ruby candies pulled up out of the ground. I can’t wait to trek down to the square filled with green goodness and unearth kaleidoscope carrots (red, purple, yellow) and tomatoes in a few weeks.

Nature really is amazing.

Red Feet, Green Thumbs

Just when I was ready to throw my hands up in the air and dub myself the Countess of Black Thumbs, the garden showed evidence of sprouting!

Perhaps I should back up: you see I have successfully murdered the first herbs that I started as seeds. Everything was going so smoothly, everything was sprouting. Everything was such a lovely shade of spring green.  My basil had started to flourish in little patches, so I transplanted the tiny shoots into larger, colorful pots in hopes of a fragrant and tasty large plant; the oregano was coming up sparsely (yet still growing) and I had tiny green shoots of rosemary. And then, due to my sweet non-watering skills, all of the original plant babies wilted and died a quick death. Woops.

This unfortunate turn of events made me question my new hobby. Maybe I’m not responsible enough to foster wee seedlings and plants into healthy, robust, edible produce.  Throughout the week, I continued to question my gardening abilities. I recall thinking that all of the items I’d previously planted weren’t sprouting, and that I should just till it all up and start over; I voiced this to a co-worker of mine who has success in container planting and she just laughed, exclaiming that I didn’t have the patience for it. She’s right: I’m an immediate gratification kind of girl. And, generally speaking, if something becomes too labor-intensive or gives rise to trouble, I just quit and move on along to a new venture.

I got home Saturday and trekked down to the garden patch after I talked to my dad and confessed that I’d killed the plant babies and that I probably needed to start over in the garden.  It was then that I regained a tiny bud of hope when my dad confirmed that everything I’d planted in our little patch was thriving! I was so proud and excited. The lettuce, peas and green beans I’d planted as seedlings had turned into lush green patches sprouting out of our rocky, red clay soil. The onions I’d poked into the earth showed evidence of being happy: leafy spring green onion tops broke through the soil reaching up toward the sky.

 

 

 

 

 

Then I realized something fairly important that I know will keep me interested in this new hobby:  Maybe I wasn’t so bad at this after all. Maybe I needed to just start over with the herbs, throwing them directly outside to grow in nature rather than babying the seeds into shoots indoors.

So, with renewed enthusiasm, I made the journey down to the garden today. Under my dad’s instruction, I lurched and stopped, lurched and stopped from the garden shed to the garden plot behind a scary, loud gurgling roto tiller. I kicked off my shoes after I the rocky red soil got the best of me by cramming itself into the crevices of the inappropriate shoe I’d chosen for this activity and, stepping onto the soft earth, I tilled (I tilled!!), turning up and weeding rock soil. I broke out the metal rake and threw down beet seeds and pea seeds, and I watered.  By the time I was done, my hands and feet were stained by the red Virginia soil. Just call me Red Foot.

I have renewed hope and gusto for this new attempt of mine. With new seeds in the earth, patches of the newly sprouted greenery in the garden, and ity bity newly birthed oregano shoots breaking through the surface of seed starting soil in tiny planters on the deck, all I have to do is remember to water the babies. And of course, to have patience; that this is most definitely not an immediate gratification type of hobby.  There is a chance that I’ll gain a respect for things that take time to come to fruition, at least one can only hope.

Ventures in Dirt

About a month ago, I decided that this was going to be the spring and summer where I’d turn my (erratic and unguided) energy and focus on gardening. It seemed like a good idea; I’d never attempted it myself and knew absolutely nothing about gardening other than it requires you to get dirty (we’re talkin’ covered in red Virginia mud dirty).

I started this new venture with the same unabashed intense energy and enthusiasm that I begin all things. I researched. I looked up veggies and herbs that grow well in my part of Virginia. I looked into companion planting and heirloom vegetables. I decided what herbs I wanted to grow and I planted seeds in biodegradable homemade newspaper planters.  Two weeks later, I had become a proud herb mama; I had tiny little green sprigs of basil and oregano. I don’t know that I’ve felt that much excitement at something I’d “created” since I played music every day as a teenager.

(These are my plant babies)

 

And surprisingly enough, after two weeks I was still interested in this hobby. You see, I have a tendency to throw myself into new ventures and interests with reckless abandon and within a very (very, very) short period of time, my attentions have shifted and I’m onto the next thing. I think that the only event that has kept me from turning to some other new-fangled idea (that popped into my head whilst trying to avoid dealing with issues that I’ve been repressing, because, let’s face it, that just how I operate) was seeing the physical progress of my new hobby in a short period of time. God bless the short maturation period of basil.

Anyway…back to the story. I decided it was time for more. I wanted to attempt to grow some things in my dad’s garden (which I’d threatened to completely take over in the Eager Puppy planning stage of this new idea). I went to Lowe’s and bought a ton of seeds: broccoli, peas, beans, lettuce, carrots. I was excited.

Last weekend involved a first for me. I “suited up”, laced up my boots and trekked out to the garden, seed packets in hand, trailing after my father.  My dad has gardened for years but the extent of my gardening experience is snapping ripe tomatoes off the vine (so I could enjoy a “mater sammich”) or being forced to (begrudgingly) pick beans and peas.

I headed down to the side yard with growing trepidation as I reached the garden square: I had no idea what to do. How exactly does one garden? If I plan a seed for a pea, if I cover it too much, will it grow? It is alright to plant broccoli next to peas? Does it matter that we have somewhat rocky soil and will that choke out our plants? Do I own a nail brush to get the red clay out from under my fingernails? I put all of my concerns aside and decided that’s what my dad is there for. So I began spitting questions left and right. I looked up from the dirt and asked, “How do I cover up the peas after I’ve sprinkled them?” My Dad burst into laughter. He then said something along the lines of, “As many years as I’ve been doing this and you don’t know how to cover up the seeds? A southern girl like you ought to know how to do this.”  Then, he showed me how to cover the peas up after I’d sprinkled them. If any of you are wondering: use a rake. Once I put down peas, I planted broccoli seeds. Then lettuce.  And then, Dad taught me the art of planting onions.  Then, I planted seeds for kaleidoscope carrots; I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited about a vegetable. Purple and white and red, oh my!

All of this was serious physical work. I guess I never realized the work that is involved in the actual planting.  I squatted. I crouched. I bent over and stood up repeatedly. After about two hours of this, my white dog (who, against all protest,  decided that he’d aid me in this venture) was covered in red mud and my hands had never been dirtier.

dirty bud

I felt great. I felt physically exhausted.  I can only imagine the work that will be involved in keeping weeds at bay in my veggies’ home. I felt like I’d accomplished something. I got to thinking about the days when people’s gardens were the way they fed themselves. Would I have survived that kind of life? No wonder the pictures of the farmers of old echo wiry looking people: they were continuously physically taxed.

I really do hope that my interest in this will continue to grow. I’m kind of roped into it for the long-haul (or for as long as the produce lives) of spring and summer. I don’t look forward to the time that I know I’ll have to invest squatting over plants to rip weeds from the earth; however, maybe I’m looking at this all wrong? Perhaps I should look at the impending upkeep as my new gym routine: step, squat, pull, stand, repeat. Who knows, maybe this venture will force me to eat healthier and develop “buns of steel”.  Wherever this hobby leads me, I’m glad that I’m doing it: I’m learning something new and I’m spending more time with my dad. Those are two things that are worth the work.